Kat Leonard is a multi-faceted, multi-talented ball of endless joy and positive energy. She performs her own brand of music, using a combo of comedic and poignant themes; is one-half of the music/comedy duo Musedy Tag Team (with Arlene Paculan); and also works with Paculan as the A.D. of Let’s Make Good (LMG) Productions to produce and present the WonderFest series of music, comedy and spoken word/poetry events. I had a chat with Kat over email about what’s been up with her lately, 2014 in general and upcoming events.
LWMC: So you’ve been a very busy lady lately. What’s been going on? What have you been up to?
KL: Oh man, that’s what I’d like to know! The year has whizzed by like bursting piss that’s been held in way too long! I started a new health and wellness business, and I’ve been doing some motivational speaking presentations and workshops (which I love), and of course still writing and performing my music and comedy, and being Artistic Director of Let’s Make Good Productions and WonderFest.
LWMC: I get the sense that 2014 has been a year of big changes. How would you sum up this past year – for you?
KL: Big changes. 2014 was the beginning of my detox, which continues into 2015. I’m detoxing my mind, my body and my world. Don’t worry. It’s not the end of cussing, beer and gyrating for me – in fact, it might mean even more! I’m just really scrutinizing what I let into me physically and emotionally. (That actually wasn’t supposed to sound dirty, BTW ;p)
LWMC: And what was your favourite gig of 2014?
KL: If I had to choose one favourite gig of 2014 it would be our Wonder Women LA showcase because we were in L-fuckin-A and I revel in the vibe there. I love the warmth of the people – and obviously the sunshine – I love the way they embrace art and take risks. We did a jam-packed four-hour show that was filled with soooo much talent and love – from music, comedy, spoken word, visual and multimedia artists. We had two stages at opposite ends of the venue so we could flip back and forth between artists, the sound was amazing, the food was amazing and the people were amazing. It was full of amaze! I made a lot of friends and felt that glorious buzz that lets you know you’re in the right place at the right time.
LWMC: I’ve always wanted to do this in an interview, and you’re my first. I’d like to give you James Lipton’s adapted Bernard Pivot/Proust questionnaire.
KL: I love it!
What’s your favourite word? I think it might be “fuck.” Maybe lowbrow, but it’s so totally versatile, eh? I like its sound and the different emphasis that can be put on it, and the effect it has on people.
What’s your least favourite word? Sometimes I don’t like the word “skin” even though it’s quite harmless and obviously I use it a lot. Just sometimes I hear it and get weird visuals of empty skin just lying around. In those moments, I don’t like it.
What turns you on? Low rumbling bass notes, a good beat, honesty, courage, strong hands, kind lips, boobs.
What turns you off? Complaining, arrogance, boredom.
What sound or noise do you love? People laughing, especially when it’s that erupting uncontrollable kind they can’t stop. Even better when they’re somewhere inappropriate and they gotta try to muffle it.
What sound or noise do you hate? Anything high-pitched, especially whining. And hockey game din. All my life, I’ve been surrounded by people watching hockey. Good lord, shut up!!! 😉
What is your favourite curse word? Fuck.
What profession other than your own would you like to pursue? International Spa Tester. I would be so good at this!
What profession would you not like to do? Ultimate Outdoor Survivalist. I would be so not good at this.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Surprise!
KL: THURSDAY, JANUARY 8 – 7pm SHE’S LISTENING: BENEFIT CONCERT FOR OVARIAN CANCER CANADA
This is a benefit concert for Ovarian Cancer Canada. There will be laughter and love, door prizes and other surprises! A spectacle of rock, pop and comedy mixed with the spirit of hope and help, this is an evening not to miss! However, if you must miss it and would still like to donate, please consider donating directly to Ovarian Cancer Canada.
$15 advance/$20 at the door: tix available at The Pubaret or online. Dinner available before, during and after the show. Dinner patrons get priority seating. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for rezzos or call 647.347.6567
KL: Let’s Make Good Productions is partnering with SIPO Foundation and One Fire Movement for our next big WonderFest event in March 2015! We are also always looking for people to be featured in our weekly WonderFest series. More information on all of this at our website.
WonderFest 2014 festivities continued last Thursday night at Habits Gastropub with their Poetry Series event.
Host Arlene Paculan ushered us through the evening, and treated us to some of her music as well. It was a night of beautiful, brave and brilliant words and music from guests Dan Curtis Thompson, Lizzie Violet and Vanessa McGowan – who shared passionate works, full of insight, emotion and humour. Keep an eye out for these talented writers/performers.
I was able to catch the first set – here are some snaps I took that night:
A fabulous, fun time was had by all at WonderFest 2014 and I was so glad to join in the festivities at the concert last night, closing off a day of learning, collaborating and positive interaction at Revival Bar. And after a full day of workshops (A Capella Jam with Niki Andre and a Synergy Session with Madette), the gang was engergized and ready to go.
LMG Productions organizers Kat Leonard and Arlene Paculan hosted an amazing line-up of talent (aka Wonder Women & Super Men) from a variety of arts disciplines, including music, spoken word, stand-up comedy and visual arts. Visual artists included paintings – which were featured onstage – by Dorothy Knight, Rohan Moore and Stephanie Payne, and face painting by Lisa Diane.
The stellar roster of concert performers, in order of appearance, included:
Kat Leonard and Arlene Paculan are both amazing solo artists in their own right. Together, they are Musedy Tag Team and half of the Four Winds Collective (with Heather Hill and Meghan Morrison), performing music with heart and humour, and they are the force behind LMG Productions, spreading empowerment through art through their Wonder Women, Super Men and now WonderFest events. Leonard is also a well-known Johnny Depp fangirl and Paculan, like me, shares his birthday. I interviewed these two lovely and talented ladies over email about their work together and their upcoming WonderFest 2014 event on April 6 at Revival Bar in Toronto.
LWMC: So tell us about how you met and how you came to start working together.
AP: I met Kat at a Valentine’s Show. It was called No Sweetheart Required, so she calls it an anti-Valentine’s Day show. It was so amazing because I immediately was drawn to her and was curious as to what she was all about. We started talking about what we did in the arts world. I found out that we both put shows on and I asked her if she’d like to participate in one that I do in the future – not having heard any of her work, I was trusting my instincts that she was incredibly awesome. After I saw her perform “Jockstrap,” that solidified my assumption! Prior to meeting her, I was in the process of starting Wonder Women and asked her to join the line up and she’s been a part of the event ever since! And now she’s Artistic Director for the company!
KL: … We hit it off and within mere moments decided we should embark upon doing shows together. We were both individually relieved as we stood backstage listening to the other perform their piece, because we had agreed to collaborate before even hearing the other perform. We’re both allergic to eggplant so it must have been fate!
LWMC: And how did LMG Productions, Wonder Women and the evolution to WonderFest come about?
AP: LMG Productions was something I came up with in 2010 – just a little production company that I could use to put on little concerts around the GTA. It was initially called Lene, Mean, and Green because of my name and my favourite colour is green. Kat came on board in 2012 to help out with the growing Wonder Women events. Soon she came up with the idea of changing it to ‘Let’s Make Good’ because of the direction our shows were going.
Wonder Women started to showcase female songwriters with different genres and to grow our audience base. After four Wonder Womens where it was solely music, we teamed up with This Girl Friday, which is run by a talented poet and graphic designer, Lizzie Violet [link]. Lizzie brought on the idea of having music and spoken word in a show. From then, Wonder Women and Super Men (all male showcase) combined creates ‘WonderFest’ which celebrates all types of art forms.
KL: … I was happy to be a performer in that first concert and to become Artistic Director of the series and production company. We worked together to create events that would eventually include Super Men and also workshops to nurture creativity and healthy self-esteem. We really endeavoured to develop a strong community that would encourage and promote the arts and self-empowerment. WonderFest was born. Because we were endorsing positivism we felt it was important to have a production name that reflected the same, so we went about brainstorming something with which we could retain the LMG moniker. Like a flash of enthused lightning, the name Let’s Make Good blasted into my brain as Arlene and I sat there doing just that, making good, and munching on Crispy Minis. 🙂
LWMC: In addition to your individual projects and work with LMG, you play together as Musedy Tag Team and in the Four Winds Collective What can you tell us about the experience and dynamics of performing solo, in a duet and in a group?
KL: Solo: I love it! Performing solo is empowering and freeing, though I tend to engage audience members in my act quite often. 😉 It is freeing that I can go off track and discover new moments without throwing anyone else off, and it’s also liberating to not worry that my behaviour is partly representing a bigger group. Having said that, there is no sweeter pleasure than sharing the stage with others, and sparking a unique and dynamic energy.
Musedy Tag Team: I love it love it!
I feel truly blessed to create and perform with Arlene in Musedy. She is the perfect yin to my yang and the class to my sass. A duet is a special relationship because you’re able to really get to know the other person and create a solid foundation of confidence upon which you can play and take risks. Musedy Tag Team is one of my favourite things to do and it is on my “to do more” list. Stay tuned for our upcoming Musedy Tag Team Mashup Madness show that’s in the works for being in the works! 🙂
Four Winds: I love it love it love it love it!! There is something absolutely enchanting about working in a group that works; it leads to endless discoveries and gifts. I really feel there is something magical about this collection of gals. We are eclectic and complementary, a songstorm of musical forces intertwined for the greater good. 🙂 I completely trust and admire each one of them musically and as best buds. When I play with Heather, Meghan and Arlene I feel safe yet thrilled, and a buzz of love adds to the rhythm of every performance. Incidentally, Four Winds will be performing our first original song at this year’s WonderFest!
AP: It’s SO much fun to do different projects with my best friend, Kat Leonard. Whether it’s LMG events, or duos, or even with more artists, like Four Winds, it’s really easy, extremely fun, hilarious and productive to work with Kat. I feel like we both have the same vision in promoting ourselves through these different projects and I’m really excited to see where it goes!!! We even toured to Halifax together on the VIA Rail, and travelled to LA to get a taste of the film and music scene.
LWMC: On Sunday, April 6, WonderFest takes over Revival Bar. What’s happening at this year’s fest?
KL: So much talent and fun is happening! Along with visual art displays, WonderFest starts this year at 2:00 with an inspiring workshop led by Niki and Madette: A Capella Jam and Synergy Sessions come together to lead us in musical improvisation. All levels of experience wanted! At 4:00 there will be networking and face painting until doors open at 6:00 for the variety show taking place 7:00 to 9:00. Music, comedy, dance, spoken word, art; we are so very excited for this fun-packed day!
AP: This is from our press release (Thanks Jeff Costigan!) This year’s event promises to build on the popularity and success of previous years – empowering people of all ages and backgrounds to use creativity and art in their everyday lives. The one-day event will take place on Sunday, April 6th at the Revival Bar in Toronto (783 College St.). The art-packed schedule includes a musical workshop, networking, and a culminating concert featuring musicians, poets, visual artists, and comedians (welcome to everyone from all levels, as spectators or participants). Tickets for the concert are $10 in advance, and $15 at the door. Advance tickets can be found at: https://wonderfest2014.eventbrite.ca/
2-4pm: Synergy Jam Workshop A Cappella Jam + Synergy Session team up for a flash mob style jam session. Come sing, play, and leave feeling inspired! All styles, traditions and levels are welcome.
7-9pm: Concert (doors open at 6PM)
LWMC: And what do you hope participants and audience will take away from this year’s event?
AP: I really hope that people leave feeling inspired and empowered by what they learned and what they got to experience by performances and art work. The goal is to encourage people to tap into their creative side again, whether it’s to make an interesting spreadsheet or a lovely homemade dinner.
KL: My hope is that everyone who experiences WonderFest will discover a new artist and friend, will explore something fresh about themselves, and will find the freedom and power in nurturing a community of healthy risk-takers. I hope that every person walks away from WonderFest with a sense of empowerment to pursue the wildest of their dreams and the minutest of everyday miracles.
LWMC: Any other upcoming gigs or projects you’d like to shout out?
AP:Saturday April 12, 2014
with Miquelon Rodriquez, Sarah Giles, and Edward Monzon
The Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St. W., Toronto)
9pm – 11pm * FREE
Sunday April 13th, 2014
Village Vinyl (2925 Lake Shore Blvd West, Toronto)
2pm – 5pm * FREE
LWMC: Anything else you’d like to share?
AP: Life with more cowbell ROCKS!! Thanks Cate for having us on your blog again!
KL: If I may be so bold, I want to thank you for being such an important and loving member of our WonderFest community. We adore you completely!
LWMC: Aw! Thanks, ladies!
You can also check out Kat Leonard and Arlene Paculan on their YouTube sites:
In case you missed my tweets of these pics, I’m posting them here. LMG Productions, the mastermind group behind the Wonder Women concert series and WonderFest, requested that folks take pictures of themselves with words of empowerment and tweet them out. Since I like to maintain some semblance of anonymity – and because the idea just seemed too fun not to do – I chose to put my words on my cowbell.
WonderFest lands next week (March 4-8) – check out the link above for workshop, talks and concert details.
What words of empowerment would you choose? Tweet ’em out to LMG Productions
When Kat Leonard introduced me to multi-talented, muti-faceted, multi-media working artist Lisa Anita Wegner, what struck me the most was that Lisa credits art with saving her life. You can read her story here. And when I visited her blog site, I was blown away by the imagery in her pixel paintings.
I had a chance to interview Lisa over email – here’s what she had to say:
LWMC: Hi, Lisa. I was looking at your WordPress blog site and the Mighty Brave Productions site to get a sense of the work you do – and was amazed at the multi-faceted aspect of your work overall, and how it all boils down to authentic storytelling, and using story to make interior and exterior connections. You’ve worked as an actor, producer, writer, filmmaker and visual artist. What else? What came first for you and how did the media you work in evolve?
LAW: I have always made stuff with whatever I have access too. My first project idea to put on a Mary Poppins play didn’t fly because no one responded. I was five years old.
When I was little, I was shy but when I had an idea for a play, I would become bold. I got permission from the school principal to produce an all-grade two production of Little Orphan Annie and perform in the auditorium for the school. I played by myself a lot, and I would envision fully formed plays and then did my best make them happen. I really was just following instincts, moving toward what felt good. And when I was performing, I felt like it was doing the right thing.
I stuck with theatre mostly because I had no video camera and was good at making costumes. In grade nine, I got the lead in the high school play and played Catherine Sloper from Washington Square on a proper stage with older kids. I felt like I’d arrived home. In high school, I produced and performed several other plays, including a racy version of The Rocky Horror Show. I continued to produce plays of larger scale and after three years at York U theatre, I left to start my acting career. For several years, I dabbled in commercials and print work, with a string of small parts in local theatre eventually playing some meaty roles on stage (Mephistopheles, The Wife in Rashomon, Joan of Arc). With good reviews, I was happy, but far from creatively fulfilled.
With Mighty Brave Productions, I started my creative team, some of them still with me, all these years later. Each year, I would do one play in another city and one play in Toronto – I liked to do theatre in non-traditional spaces (church, radio station, dance studio) and here started to become obsessed with authenticity. If something was phoney, I lost interest immediately. I raised money, begged borrowed and bartered, and paid for stuff myself if necessary. I decided never to let money stand in my way of making anything.
In 2004, I produced my first full-scale short film, union talent, 50-person crew, two-camera set up. A veteran TV director, John Bertram (Degrassi Jr.High), and some of his seasoned team joined me. From then on, I was hooked indie filmmaking. I realized that this storytelling eye was more intimate and personal – and so up my alley. I set up the project, organized the team, dream the story and then be an actor on my own set. It is heaven on earth.
I nurtured my creative family and now have produced 47 film and video projects – from 10-second interstitials, to feature length films.
In 2008, I fell sick and basically couldn’t function (collapsed at Cannes, how romantic). Once I was home, I started making small video projects on my laptop while lying in bed, because that was all I had access to. Figuring out who I am through these videos was a big part of my healing. They are all based on what was going on inside my head at the moment. For example, I found a typewriter on the street and I shot a series of kitchen sink dramas about a woman who wanted to be a writer. I played both husband and wife in the series. Here is a playlist of some of these videos: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB10F738DB74E612E
So Who Am I Anyway?, a short where I put on my own outfits and listened to music, I knew I used to like to see if it was still suited me. This simple little video was chosen as part of Selection 2011 at The Phoenix Art Museum and I was honoured to be there at the screening.
2008/2009, I could barely wash and feed myself, but if I got an idea for a video I would get up, set up, shoot, cut, post it and fall back into bed. I knew I was in the right job because no matter how sick my mind and body, that I couldn’t stop making stuff. When I was sick, I created as much content as when I was running two small production companies. This personal work really was me trying to figure out who I was after my mind stopped working properly. These little no budget, lo-fi videos affected more people and did more for my career than any other film I’d produced.
While for me, performing is the icing on the creative crack cake, but dreaming up a project and communicating the story are something I will never be able to stop doing, it’s the actual crack.
Someone called me a folk artist, because I make do with whatever is available to me.
LWMC: Do you still act?
LAW: Yes. I am performing in my current projects and once I am finished with my medical leave, I will act in other people’s projects again. I feel like I am 10 times the performer I used to be. Now, with the experience of putting my brain back together, I feel like I have a deeper, more complex, intimate understanding of my own emotional system, and the inner workings of my brain and heart. I am very much looking forward to getting back on other people’s sets again. Did I mention that being on set is like being at the most fun camp in the universe?
LWMC: I wanted to ask you about your pixel painting. How do you approach storytelling in this medium – and are there any similarities with the other media you’ve worked in?
LAW: Pixel painting started as a therapeutic measure when I had a lot of anxiety. If I would do digital art, it would quiet my mind and calm my body. I rarely planned what I was doing. I would often start with a webcam shot of my face and I tried my best to convey where I was at. When I was finished, it was often a surprise to me what I created. I tend to use images from my life – if I’m watching a movie, I might grab a screen capture as my canvas and a picture of my face and go from there. The story or the message is revealed, but not planned.
After doing this awhile, I realized how much story one can convey in a moment. What stays in what is out of the image. And also in the creation of the image (I started filming me making them) Jane Siberry’s video “When We Are a Vampire” is one example of this and the current work I am doing with musician Benjamin Boles (both on YouTube).
LWMC: Your image appears in a lot of your pixel paintings – and though your style is influenced by the Dada movement, using yourself as the subject brings to mind the (surrealist) self-portraits painted by Frida Kahlo. Has your work become more personal, more autobiographical, since your work in art therapy?
LAW: At first, I was surprised that I used my own face so much. But it was always there right in front of my on the webcam. These self-portraits have evolved into something that is now a part of my life. I make them every day. I consider it a lifelong project to try to be more and more authentic in everything I make. Now, I am an authenticity junkie. I feel like my story is being told in everything I make, from pixel painting to feature film. I blushed when you included me in the same sentence as Frida.
LWMC: There’s a really cool sense exploration, playfulness and intensity in your work – and the imagery can be dark, whimsical or erotic. Do you set out with a theme in mind, does an idea come in a flash…do you just go for it? What sows the seed of a project for you?
LAW: Thank you. I feel creatively very free. I just put it all out there. I was surprised that the happier and more balanced I feel in my life, the creepier and darker my work gets. I can’t help making erotic stuff because it’s a part of me. I post that on deviantART.com and not too much on Facebook. I do think there will be more work in that direction.
LWMC: The juxtaposition of images and text is especially thought-provoking. Does the inclusion of text happen organically during the creation of the piece – or does the text come first and the piece gets built around it? Where does the text come from?
LAW: I’ve always liked words in pictures. I found my grade nine art project and I had already that basic style going. The words just pop out of me and into the image as part of my pixel painting trance.
LWMC: What are you working on right now?
LAW: I pixel paint every day, and I recently set up a studio so I can also paint with paper, paint and brushes. I’m working on an ongoing video series to Benjamin Boles’ one-man band improv set up (there is a YouTube playlist of all these) he creates music and I create videos based on the moment we are in. I have been calling this endeavour The Moment Factory. I have started layering all the performance videos together, so there is a visual echo of each prior performance in the current video. Here is a playlist of these:
I am also currently working on a multimedia project called The Interface Is The Message, a feature film called MY FAVOURITE MISTAKE and an larger scale art/video/fashion/performance installation with The City Of Toronto, which will be announced soon (keeping secrets is hard for me). I have also been working on some commissions and album art.
LWMC: Any upcoming exhibitions, installations or screenings?
LAW:One Desert Two Desserts will be screening in Phoenix, Arizona this month. You can see my pixel painting as part of Elvis Mondays when Benjamin Boles is playing at The Drake Hotel (dates tba). I am also speaking at WonderFest about How Art Saved My Life and showing some visual art pieces as part of the concert at The Gladstone Hotel.
LWMC: Anything else you’d like to share with folks?
LAW: Figure out what it is you love doing and never stop. I never imagined my creative path taking the route it took, but I didn’t buck the current. I flowed with it and now I wake up happy every day. I can’t believe how lucky I am that I found my voice, and now I have the freedom to create what I want every day and see where it takes me. I learned to keep my reactive tap open. Everyone can do this, and I encourage everyone to find what it is for them and go after it with gusto. Pierce the mundane to find the marvellous inside you. You are worth it!